.February Goes Black to the Future

Black to the Future bring a month of events to San Jose

African flags, cultural artifacts and photographs of Black icons, community members and youth alums line the walls of the Ujima joint wellness center and medical clinic on the Alameda.

For over three decades, Ujima—staffed by professional clinicians and therapists—has provided Black San Joseans with a plethora of health resources. The busy location also currently houses a chapter of one of Oakland’s medical centers, the Roots Clinic. The organizers behind this month’s Black to the Future Festival also call Ujima headquarters, using the space to develop events to inspire more community bonding and involvement.

Malcolm Lee Halcrombe works in Ujima’s newest Wellness Division. He took part in Ujima’s programming while at Oak Grove High School. The personable wellness advocate says being part of Ujima’s program early on motivated him to pursue a career helping his community.

After attending a community cookout last summer hosted by grassroots group B.L.A.C.K. (Black Libertarian And Collective Knowledge) Outreach at Backesto Park, Halcrombe says the large gathering impacted him in a big way. He estimates there were around 350-400 attendees at the cookout event.

“There were so many Black, African people. I hadn’t seen us in this dense amount, number-wise, in San Jose, maybe ever,” Halcrombe says. “I was talking to people asking, ‘Where are you from? Did you come from the East Bay, or East Palo Alto?’ And the majority said, ‘Oh, I’m from San Jose.’”

Halcrombe soon connected with others in the community, eventually meeting a group of like-minded organizers looking to host more Black events in the South Bay. This month, the group brought the plan to life with the Black to the Future Festival, six different South Bay events spanning the month of February.

The festival kicked off last weekend with a San Jose Jazz sponsored performance by Illa J (J Dilla’s younger brother), along with a live tribute to the musical supergroup the Soulquarians. The packed venue also enjoyed performances by Sacramento-based Cosmic Roots with support from San Jose songstress JOY.

Drummer and festival organizer Zuri Lazare says events like these are why the group came together in the first place.

“You know, when you go downtown [in San Jose], you don’t really see a lot of Black people, because they go to Oakland. We have no spaces here and that’s really how [Black to the Future Fest] came about,” she says. “There’s so many different pockets of community, and so many creative people in San Jose, but they tend to stick in their own circles and I feel like we could all come up together, we can all do things together, why not take that into our own hands and meet up?”

It’s a concept that goes back to B.L.A.C.K. Outreach’s initial idea of a cookout.

“Community and trust is a huge component to that,” says Pamela Emanuel, founding member of B.L.A.C.K. Outreach. “We thought, what’s true to our culture but not really prevalent in San Jose? Cookouts. The point of the cookout is to connect with our culture, with each other, and build our community. From there we can talk about social justice issues and actually have a relationship behind it.”

The fest’s events also include a poignant, localized Black History Month exhibit co-developed by Halcrombe to be displayed at Ujima, another Cookout event produced with their B.L.A.C.K. Outreach collaborators and plenty of outdoors events to be hosted by Kelli Hayes and Christina Inciong of The Mind Body Soul Lab and DJ Lexapeel.

“Being outdoors, or being out in nature, as Black people historically we haven’t had the best relationship with this setting,” says DJ Lexapeel. “When we’re outside, I feel like it might take us back to slavery, or it just brings a negative connotation with that experience of just being out in the fields. So I want to bring a positive experience to change this. I want it to be a time for us to connect spiritually with our ancestors and have it be a healing experience. After the partying, the cookout and all the other events, the last Black to the Future event is our chance to wind down and be in community.”

Black to the Future

All Month Long

San Jose



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